Biden to hail West Coast dockworker union contract as possibility of UAW strike looms

The loading and unloading of cargo freighters has been suspended at all 29 U.S. West Coast ports this weekend because of chronic slowdowns on the docks that shippers and terminal operators have blamed on the dockworkers’ union, the companies said Friday.

Bob Riha, Jr. | Reuters

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will celebrate the recent West Coast dockworker contract in a ceremony at the White House on Wednesday.

Leaders from both the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents the workers, and the Pacific Maritime Association, which operates the port terminals, will join Biden at the White House.

Last week, the ILWU and the PMA ratified a contract after more than a year of negotiations that prompted the Biden administration to get involved. The contract is set to last for six years and was approved by 75% of union members who voted. It included increased pay and benefits for 22,000 workers across 29 ports on the West Coast.

“The contract finalized last week represented a prime example of Bidenomics at work, reflecting workers empowered and bargaining together for the wages, benefits, and quality of life they deserve, and company owners recognizing those unions’ right to organize,” a White House official said in a statement.

Chronic worker slowdowns plagued the ports as negotiations lagged on, in some cases diverting shipments and leading to temporary port closures.

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The White House’s embrace of the dockworkers’ contract comes as another major union fights over its deal. The United Auto Workers may strike when their contract expires on Sept. 14 if a deal can’t be reached. The UAW, which represents 146,000 workers, is asking for a 46% increase in pay, a 32-hour work week with 40 hours of pay and the return to a traditional pension system.

“The president, vice president are very strong supporters of the collective bargaining process,” National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard told MSNBC Sunday. “They want to see the collective bargaining process work its way through and you know, we are celebrating two successful collective bargaining agreements that were both ratified with overwhelming majority, both UPS Teamsters and also ILWU and the West Coast ports.”

Biden frequently touts his labor chops and his administration has helped mediate several union disputes, including averting the rail workers strike last year.

“When the last guy was here, he looked at the world from Park Avenue,” Biden said Monday at a Labor Day event in Philadelphia, Pa. “I look at it from Scranton, Pa. I look at it from Claymont, Del.”

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